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The Interview: Chapter 3

MIMI

For the second time in as many weeks in the presence of Leif Whittington, I lock my knees to keep them from giving out. When I’d visualized this moment (and I have at least a dozen times this morning alone), my knees didn’t knock. They’re not knocking now, either. It’s more a case of one look at his hot self, and my whole body begins to pulse and tingle, nerve endings and pleasure points flashing like a dang pinball machine. I guess longtime unrequited lust will do that to a girl. The man was the object of my teenage fantasies and the stuff of my later much more X-rated imaginings, though nothing could top what happened in his apartment. I’ve never come so hard before and never fully clothed!

It’s safe to say that since my dark taste of his reality, my fascination has only increased. Show Daddy what he wants. I almost melted hearing those words in that voice. In fact, I think my brain might’ve experienced a little meltdown because it’s all I can think of when I look at him.

Jeez Louise, get your mind out of the gutter, Mimi. I barely recognize my own thoughts these days. It’s certainly true we’re not in Florida anymore, Toto.

Whit’s corner office, natch, is three times the size of my first apartment. But then, my first (and only ever) apartment was above my parents’ garage. Decorated in shades of gray, navy, and black with the occasional streak of white, the color palette might’ve been inspired by the London skyline frames by the wall of windows. A meeting space dominates one corner, the table a white-gray marble, the eight black chairs around it appearing to have been designed to encourage brevity over comfort. A monochrome rug denotes a more welcoming space with two low leather sofas flanking a matching coffee table. One wall houses library-style cabinetry of midnight blue, and an old-fashioned ladder connects to a brass rail above. The floor and walls are dark and the artwork atmospheric, and in the center of it all is a monolithic stone desk—a piece of art in itself. Behind it stands Whit, and behind him is the city of London. He is a picture of masculinity, sexiness in shirtsleeves, and master of all he surveys.

He can sure master me. In fact, he did. All I need now is for the other inhabitants of the room to disappear and for him to crook a finger at me and whisper lift your skirt. Show me.

I suppress a shiver and remind myself he’s probably not having the same kind of thoughts, judging by his expression. He’s shocked to see me, of course he is. And I expect a normal person on a normal timeline would rather pluck out their own eyeballs than see Whit again after such an awkward… decoupling? De-fingering?

To put it another way, my post-orgasmic glow disappeared in the length of time it took him to remove his fingers and choke out my name. It’s not a moment I choose to dwell on because I also remember his expression as he watched me fall apart. What I saw in his eyes still has the power to take my breath away.

And that’s the reason I’m brave enough to stand here. The reason lady parts are currently as enthusiastic as a tween at a Taylor Swift concert. Externally, of course, I’m more relaxed. I’m a head tilt and a friendly, closed-lipped smile. Kind of it’s so nice to see you.

Can I see more of you?

Pretty please?

I’m here for the experience… here, in freakin’ London! Standing in the office of my longtime secret crush with an amended agenda. And oh, my gosh, is that London Bridge in the distance?

Jody waddles over to Whit’s desk, slapping down the folder she’s carrying. My contract, already signed by the HR director. “I forgot, you two already know each other.”

“H-hardly,” Whit stutters, the words coming out like a motorbike with problems starting. How cute! I made the hot man stutter!

He seems to give his head a little shake before rounding his desk, so tall, dark, and so freakin’ handsome—he’s like Superman on attractive steroids. Then he’s here, in front of me, his hands on my shoulders, and those tiger eyes intent on mine. My poor little heart goes “Ah me” in an echo of Juliet, Romeo’s boo. My eyes flutter closed as he leans in to kiss my cheek. I inhale lungsful of his heady scent of cedarwood, spice, and black pepper, but it’s the scent of nostalgia that makes me want to melt.

My insides absolutely contract as his warm breath caresses my cheek, and I guess I must make some kind of noise or reaction because then his low voice rumbles, “Behave yourself.”

Not even! No way! Not when I’m this close to exploding again.

Yep, that’s what I said xxx-plode.

He moves back a little without moving his hands from my shoulders. “It’s been a while,” he says as his eyes bore into mine in all their animal intensity, demanding I play along.

“Oh my gosh, a hot minute at least.” I don’t bother to hide my grin because his broad shoulders are already doing that for me. “I bet you’re surprised to see me again.”

This man, that voice, the experience, gives me all the shivers. That night was probably the first time in my life I wasn’t worried about my lack of thigh gap. It didn’t seem to bother him none, either. While I might not have come to London with Whit in mind, boy do I now want to know what makes Daddy tick.

“You could say that,” he returns, his expression revealing no hint of his thoughts. He did seem pleased to see me before. Pleased to feel me, too. But then things got awkward, and he said he didn’t realize who I was. That he was expecting someone else. Someone else he confused me for? Someone else he’d never met? I’ve spent a lot of time pondering this, and you bet your sweet behind I plan on having that delicious conundrum answered. Just not right now. And not back then, afterward, I mean, because I couldn’t get out of the place fast enough. Oh. The. Mortification. But I’m over it now. Mainly because I choose to be.

“But it was nice, right? The last time we saw each other.” Well, you saw a little more of me than I saw of you…

“Nice?” If ice had a voice, it would sound like that.

“Well, I thought it was nice.”

One of his brow quirks like a question mark. “Refresh my memory. What exactly was nice about it?”

“When you helped me out. You did that, you know, thing?”

“Did I?”

“You know. You helped me with that project?” My cheeks must be aiding global warming right now. “The digital remaster thing?” Help! I’m spouting nonsense!

This time, it’s his lips that quirk. Barely. “Digital mastery?” His hands slip down my arms. He folds them across his broad chest.

“Yeah, that was really nice.” I clasp my fingers in a death grip, desperate to contain my delight. “It was very…” I glance around, unable to bear the weight of his dark taunting gaze, not without giving in to a joy-filled squeal. “Enlightening.”

“Was it really?”

I nod, nerves making my mouth hurry on. “How are you, Whit?” My gaze skims over his magnificence. “Are you good?”

Hell yes, you’re good.

“I’m well. And yourself, Amelia? Are you well?”

Beats being called little fly, I guess. Maybe? “I am good. Thank you for asking.” For the record, should you require it, I can also be very bad. At least, I think I can be. “You look good,” I tag on. Good as in super-hot. He’s obviously older than I remember, but the years look good on him. His hair has a little salt mixed in with the dark pepper. He’s larger in the shoulders, but just as lean, his flat stomach denoted by a trim leather belt. He looks like a grown-up. Dark and capable. The kind of man who—

“You look good, too.” His eyes flit over me, leaving a buttery warmth in their wake.

Well, I am wearing my favorite shirt. I’m no longer the gangly teen who’d turn beet red at his teasing. I’ve grown up, but I think we’ve already established that.

Whit seemed to be a fixture of my childhood home, and I idolized him. I still remember the first time he visited. I couldn’t understand why my tummy would flutter when he was near. It was years before I could label the feelings. Each vacation he spent with us, it became more and more clear, but that was before Connor died and the fun was sucked out of my world. Whit had already been living in London for years when Connor passed, but he didn’t drop out of our lives like a lot of his friends. Like loss is somehow catching. He’d call regularly, just to check in, and send silly postcards from his vacations, and the occasional email. He’d even send me emails sometimes. And always a birthday card each year, usually containing a department store gift certificate.

“It helps that my braces came off.”

Ouch. Maybe I haven’t moved on much from that awkward girl.

Whit stifles a smile as he lifts his hand to his mouth. Those fingers, my mind echoes with an internal sigh. This man and his hands have kept me awake many a night, and not just since his digital mastery. I don’t know if it’s his Italian ancestry, but he always seemed to use his hands a lot. It’s very sexy. Even more so now. His fingers are long, elegant, and tan. I especially like it when he uses them on his jaw and chin, just like now.

“I can believe it.” He gives his head a slight shake. “I hardly recognized you.”

“Oh, I know,” I reply. “I mean, I guessed as much.” After last time.

His index finger kind of tugs at his smile, but as someone clears their throat behind him, he turns. I notice El, his brother, sitting in the seat on the opposite side of the desk. Polly, their mom, introduced us this morning when I was getting my ID pass. A second man sits in the adjacent seat, who I guess to be another of the Whittington brood.

“Hi, El.” I hazard a little wave, and he scrambles from his seat.

“Hey, Mimi.”

“Aren’t you going to introduce us?” asks the third occupant of the room.

“No,” El says with a laugh. “Not a chance.”

“Don’t let us stop your important meeting.” Jody holds out her hand as though to stop their progress. She waddles back to where I’m standing just inside the door. The woman looks fit to drop. Drop into a chair… drop a baby or three. Any of those. “We still have the marketing and compliance departments to visit.”

“Compliance? Whit frowns, and as Jody passes him by, she gives an exaggerated roll of her eyes.

“Is there an echo in here?”

“Jodes—”

For someone clearly thirteen months pregnant, Jody swings abruptly on her heel.

“What have I told you about calling me that?” she snaps. Whit’s brows retract and he holds up his hands, kind of, don’t shoot! She shuffles around to half face me, her expression a mixture of tiredness, frustration, and regret. “My ex called me that, and it properly gets my back up.”

I make a mental note of the vernacular—to get one’s back up means to get annoyed. Okay. I nod in solidarity, my hands still clasped at my front like the goody two shoes I used to be.

“Don’t take any shit from him while I’m gone. But don’t think you can dish it out, either. He’s got a wicked temper. You’ve got to know how to handle the monster.”

The younger-looking brother snickers.

Jody’s gaze narrows before cutting his way, her tone withering. “Why don’t you have a rest? Take the day off from stupid.”

“I just didn’t realize you were familiar with the monster,” he says with a cheeky grin.

“Are you going to tell him, or do I have to get the handbook again?” Her attention shifts to Whit. My stomach flips because I realize he’s still looking at me.

“Get the handbook,” Whit says, breaking my gaze. “Hit him with it. It’s probably the only use for it where he’s concerned.”

“That wasn’t sexual harassment!” Brin protests.

“You shouldn’t make dick jokes to a woman twenty-eight weeks pregnant unless you don’t mind losing it.”

“Jody, love, come on!”

“Don’t you love me. I will throw the book at you—literally.”

The pair begin to squabble, and I get the feeling this is the kind of scene that has played out before. And oh my goodness, I love it!

“Will you two knock it off!” Whit bellows. I jump at the sheer volume, but it does the trick as the room falls quiet. So this is new. New to me, at least. Maybe I’m a deviant because I kind of dig it. “I’m not bad tempered,” he then adds in a more even tone.

El coughs “bullshit” into his fist and I try to stifle my smile. This is more like a circus than an office. And as of next month, this is my circus, and those are my monkeys. Kind of.

“That’s something we’ll have to agree to disagree on,” Jody says, making for the door again. I scramble out of her way when she pauses, fixing me with a look. “His not-bad temper can be terrible, but usually not for no reason,” she adds. “Whit is a man with a great weight balanced on his shoulders.”

His lovely, broad shoulders. “Got it,” I agree with a nod.

“But keep him in check. I don’t want to have to retrain him when I get back.”

“Retrain—Get back? When you get back from where?” I don’t know, but I think Whit looks a little panic stricken.

“Oh, you know. A break in the Bahamas.” An unamused Jody points finger guns at her swollen stomach. “Where do you think I’m going looking like this?”

“But…”

“I can’t keep these two in here forever.”

“Oh cool! Twins.” It seemed impolite to ask.

Her expression scrunches even as she slides a tender hand over her stomach. “Twin hippos, I’m beginning to think.”

“Can someone explain what’s going on here?” Whit modulates his tone, holding his hands out in a plea.

“You’re complaining, as usual,” Jody deadpans. “Unless you’re questioning why I’m putting myself to the trouble of showing Mimi around when I should have my feet up.”

“I’ll show her ’round,” the younger brother pipes up, rising from his chair.

“I’m not busy, either,” El adds quickly.

“Down, boys.” Jody makes a patting motion with her hand.

“Absolutely,” Whit replies with a glower. “Put your feet up—take the rest of the afternoon off. But for the love of God, please explain why Miss Valente is getting the grand tour.”

“It’s part of the orientation,” she says as though talking to a halfwit. “How else will she be able to cover for me?”


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